Raph’s Website -- Oh, Avatar
I enjoy Koster's take on this, because of course
the next step would be for the humans to come back and wipe out the Na'Vi. And maybe we'll even see that in a sequel.
The dishonesty does not lie in the basics of the plot. It is an old plot, as has been pointed out by many. It’s Pocahontas, it is Ferngully, it is Dances With Wolves. It is perhaps most this latter one, because Avatar isn’t aimed at kids, it is aimed at adults, and yet it is inescapably more of a cartoon than Dances With Wolves was. One of the common critiques is the acknowledgement that “then, the humans come back and win” is the natural next step. Yes, yes it is. And part of the reason why Dances With Wolves works better in that sense is that you know that in fact, everything that the hero does didn’t work in the long run. In Ferngully we deal with fairies and fairy tales, and of course, the tale of Pocahontas does not much resemble the history of Pocahontas; Avatar suffers from being more of a fairy tale than its realism would suggest.
I have read that Cameron wrote his story a long time ago. It may be that it shows in the cartoonish villainy of the bad guys, weak-minded greedhead corporations and militaristic nutcases. What is shown is bad business and bad military planning. Our thinking on this sort of issue is a lot more sophisticated than it used to be, and there’s something wincingly wrong about a line like “they don’t need anything we have,” a sort of “noble savage” attitude that grates. Especially these days when we learn more every day about sophisticated agricultural methods such as terra preta, or more about advanced civilizations living in the heart of the jungle.
The film even undermines itself; it seems internally conflicted at times, as when the death of Michelle Rodriguez’ character comes across almost as her just deserts for having abandoned her post earlier. The fact that Sigourney Weaver’s character makes it to the heart of the Na’vi culture before dying is a weak cop-out compared to how these things go in real life — the story of Moses has a better ending.
The funny thing is that there’s enough hooks there that you could see moments that were more bracingly real. The chief villain, the soldier, is motivated more by revenge for his ruined face (and more importantly, his ruined invincibility) than by anything else. But it is badly underdeveloped. It runs through the narrative everywhere: characters who act the way they do because of motives we cannot quite see.
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